UNHCR is increasingly alarmed at the humanitarian impact of the violence in north-eastern Nigeria. Newly-arriving refugees interviewed by our staff in Niger have spoken of atrocities on the islands and shores of Lake Chad in Nigeria's northeast Borno State. One woman described corpses strewn through houses and floating in the water. She said people feared staying even to bury their dead or find missing relatives. Others recounted fleeing a village shooting incident and said women and children were being kidnapped and taken away by unidentified assailants.
The latest attacks are reported to have begun in mid-February and were continuing five days ago. In all some 2000 people have crossed into southeast Niger's Diffa region over the past four weeks according to our partner, the International Rescue Committee (IRC). In addition to the attacks on Lake Chad, some of the newly arriving refugees have come from areas near Borno's state capital Maiduguri affected by fighting.
UNHCR reiterates to all parties to the conflict in northeastern Nigeria the vital importance of protecting civilians from harm. The ongoing insurgency in the three northeastern Nigerian states of Yobe, Adamawa and Borno has already displaced more than 470,000 people inside Nigeria. Refugees arriving in neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger are in addition to this.
Since Nigeria declared a state of emergency in May 2013 in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states, more than 57,000 people have fled into neighbouring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Some 17,000 of these are registered Nigerian refugees. The rest are nationals of the surrounding countries who were had been living in Nigeria for decades.
Niger has received the majority - some 40,000 concentrated in the Diffa region, a desert in the country's eastern edge.
UNHCR is grateful to the government of Niger for its Open Door policies towards the forcibly displaced from Nigeria and to the local population sharing their meagre resources with an ever increasing number of refugees.
For more information on this topic, please contact:In Dakar: Helene Caux (Regional) on mobile + 221 77 333 1291 In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120 In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483